Nine Dragon Summer Robe
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Manchu nobles appropriated a traditional symbol of Chinese authority—the five-toed dragon—to adorn this imperial robe nine times over. Nine twisting, turning dragons chasing flaming orbs, which represent the wisdom of heaven, are embroidered in metallic thread on this indigo robe. (The ninth dragon is typically hidden inside the right front flap.) The first reliable reference to dragons used as embellishments on imperial robes dates to the Tang period, preceding this robe by one thousand years or more. Manchu rulers frequently adopted Han Chinese customs and traditions, perhaps to link their rule to China’s historical past and to write themselves into that legacy.
– Catherine Roche, 2011
CA. 1880-1900, Chinese
Silk cloth with gold and silver thread
81 1/2 in. (207.01 cm) L.: 54 1/2 in.